Another must-try: Angeline’s

We are just on a roll lately with restaurants. Last weekend, Mike and I went to dinner with our friend Coulter, and we decided to try a new place in downtown Berkeley, Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen. For some reason I had the impression that it was going to be more of a fast-casual type of place, but it turned out to be more like fancied-up New Orleans cuisine. We loved it.

I wish I had more than grainy iPhone photos of the food, but it was really dark in there. I had the gumbo, which was definitely the best I’ve had. Not terribly attractive, but it had a richness of flavor that I can imagine is hard to recreate.

Coulter had the fried chicken with mashed sweet potatoes. I was lucky enough to try a bite.

But the creme de la creme was the side of macaroni and cheese. It was incredibly rich and creamy, with crunchy parmesan breadcrumbs on top.

We were totally stuffed, but we made room for dessert — bananas foster bread pudding with rum-caramel sauce. I’ve never had bread pudding quite like it. It came in a block, kind of like the texture of cold polenta, but seared and caramelized like bananas foster. Didn’t get a picture of that, but highly recommend!

Bacon corn hash

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a recipe on Smitten Kitchen and been like ohmigodihavetomakethatrightnow! But this definitely fell into that category. You’ve got to love a 5-ingredient recipe, and especially one that involves bacon and an oozy egg yolk on top.

I pretty much followed her instructions to the letter. The only thing I changed was to add about half a chopped onion — it seemed wrong to make a hash without onion — and a chopped, seeded jalapeno.

I was very excited to finally use this technique for scraping corn off the cob.

The corn I got at the grocery store was surprisingly good. It costs a little more here than it does in Iowa, but it was worth it. Since we’re having what’s close to a real summer here, weatherwise, I was craving corn on the cob even before this recipe came along.

Mike and I both loved how this recipe turned out. It’s great for those breakfast-for-dinner nights. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Even more good eats

I cleared out some photos from my iPhone and now I have even more good restaurants to share with you.

First is Daimo, a Chinese restaurant that’s right next to the pan-Asian mall in Richmond. We heard it was good and decided to check it out on a Friday night. Big mistake! It was mega crowded and totally chaotic. But once we got our food we were in love. So the next time we went there on a Thursday, and it was practically empty.

Chow mein with prawns.

Chicken with string beans.

I should have taken a photo of the potstickers, but we ate them too fast. There are definitely some more adventurous things on the menu we’ll have to try in the future. The best part is, when you’re finished with dinner, you can go into the mall and get a cream bun.

Another place we really liked was Everett and Jones barbecue in Oakland. We had so-so takeout at their Berkeley location, but decided to give the sit-down restaurant a try. It was significantly better. Service was a little iffy, but we loved the spicy barbecue sauce, the tender brisket, and all the sides.

I love how the potato salad tasted like pickle juice. Just like my grandma made it!

Plus, I am a sucker for a place that serves lemonade in Mason jars.

Also a sucker for a man in a plaid shirt. 

And lastly, we went to the Anchor Oyster Bar in the Castro for some seafood. You have to try this place. It is such a gem. It is absolutely tiny — one of the smallest restaurants I’ve ever been to. So you’re guaranteed a wait. But while we waited in the chilly weather a guy brought us samples of their tasty clam chowder.

So many people who had written their names down ended up leaving, so I think we got bumped way ahead on the list and didn’t end up waiting that long. The food was a little slow to come out, but it was worth the wait. And you have to give a little slack to a packed place with only 4 employees.

Mike got a combination of different types of oysters, huge shrimp cocktail, and a big bowl of clams in broth, all for $20. He had to get extra bread 3 times because he didn’t want to leave any broth behind (which was quite impressive to one of the waiters).

I had scallops over mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. I never order scallops, but they just sounded good, and they were really good. We also got some crab cakes for an appetizer. Everyone else’s food looked good, too. You can tell they really try to stay seasonal and fresh and local with their ingredients.

I want to go back to all these places, but I’m actually more inspired to go out and keep finding more good restaurants to try. There are just so many around here! I could never get to them all. But I’ll sure try.

Some more good eats

I just found some old pictures on my camera that I forgot to share with you. The first one is from what has become one of our go-to restaurants in the East Bay, Talavera.

Their pumpkin seed mole guajillo (above) is to die for. I always get it with pork, sometimes in a plate, sometimes in a burrito. You can’t possibly eat one of their burritos in one sitting, so I always get to eat it twice! They also have great homemade chips and guacamole, homemade salsas, and horchata to drink. I love the pickled veggies they serve with everything, too.

The other photo is from Gott’s Roadside, inside the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I’ve always wanted to try it, so one Friday night we finally did.

I got a burger, Mike got a hot dog, and we both split onion rings and a shake. They were all delicious. I like that Gott’s cares a lot about how they source the food (how very SF), and I also liked how much outdoor seating they had. We were entertained by a car getting towed out front for parking in a bus zone, and then as soon as it was gone another car pulled into the spot.

Normally I’d say that if you were in the Ferry Building, try some of the more gourmet options like the Slanted Door. But if you’ve been doing a lot of walking/touristy stuff and just want to sit and eat something filling and good, you can’t go wrong with Gott’s.

An ode to rain

Yesterday I went to let the dogs outside, and it took me a minute to realize that I had felt a raindrop. Just a tiny one — spit from an overcast sky. But it hasn’t rained in so long, I hardly remember what it’s like. And it probably won’t rain, really rain, for several more months. Even though the weather here is darn near close to perfect, and I’m not complaining, it seems almost unnatural to live in a place with no rain in the summertime. Growing up in Kansas, summer was all about those dark, threatening thunderstorms that shook the house and lit up the night sky. It was all about rain that gushed and poured out of the sky and then disappeared and soon as it came.

In Iowa, rain was more of a constant in the summer. Yes, there were still thunderstorms, but just as often there was a kind of steady rain that kept everything green (kept those cornstalks growing higher) and raised the rivers enough to make us all nervous. There is something so romantic about being caught outside in a summer rain, and being cooled off by nature on a hot day. Then there’s that steam that hangs in the air after a rainstorm and that smell. God I miss that smell.

Thinking about thunderstorms makes me think about the night Mike and I first made a real connection. We were at a friend’s house party in late spring 2004, getting to know each other. We were all outside on the porch talking when the dark clouds started to roll in. The sky looked black and angry, and before long the tornado sirens went off. Of course none of us went inside. After the sun set, it just started to pour. Like rain so heavy it almost seemed fake. So what did we do? Ran in the street of course! Laughing and getting soaking wet.

I’ll always remember that night, too, because my friend Jennie was in town from Colorado, and we got to talking about how much she liked it there and how much I wanted to check it out myself. I had no way of knowing that that would be the night I started falling in love with my husband, or plotting a change in my career, or starting to figure out who I really was. I like to think that thunderstorm was Mother Nature smacking me in the face and saying, “your whole life is about to change!” And our response was to step off the porch and run in the rain.

Healthy eats roundup

Last week I made my favorite brown rice casserole, and it got me thinking about how I need to get reacquainted with some of my healthiest recipes.

Such as:

Quinoa with corn and scallions

Sweet potato and black bean burritos

Guilt-free mac ‘n cheese

Salmon with (or without) caper-dill sauce

Raw coconut macaroons (scroll down to the bottom of the post)

Tofu hummus dip

And the best carrot muffins

I try not to get too repetitive with meal planning, but sometimes you need to be reminded of the best recipes you can always go back to.

Road trip: Sequoia National Forest (part 2)

Our last day in the cabin we decided to venture down the mountain, and then back up into another part called Balch Park. It was another winding drive through what seemed like the middle of nowhere, but this time we started to see some really big trees. At first we were just seeing stumps, and hoping it wasn’t going to be a depressing day in the woods. But eventually we got to a picnic area with a lot of full-grown sequoias.

One interesting thing about giant sequoias — they actually have tiny pinecones, about the size of an egg. They are really tightly closed, though, so it takes fire to open them up. That’s why a lot of trees have visible fire damage. They’re built to survive it.

After lunch we went on a little hike in the woods. Once again we kept seeing all sorts of interesting plants.

This one was easy — wild roses.

This particular area had some archaelogical sites where thousands of years ago people had used these basins in the rocks.

After lunch we drove on into Balch Park. You can see a lot more significant trees in that area. And you can even camp underneath them! (note to self for future trips).

I love that a lot of the trees have names.

Some of them were so big they were once used as shelters, houses, restaurants. I’m glad there was a little museum there so you could see all the historical photos of the area.

We were surprised to learn that giant sequoia wood isn’t even good for building. It was so brittle that some of it was used for stakes or pencils. It’s kind of unbelievable that people were so driven to cut them down anyway.

This one refused to be cut down!

The scale of the trees is just really hard to put into words.

We kept taking photos of the Yaris next to them for comparison.

There were cute little ground squirrels all over the place.

But after a long day of exploring we had to make the trek back to the cabin. The next day we drove to the Kings Canyon National Park, where we stayed in the Grant Grove area at the John Muir Lodge.

I can highly recommend this place. It’s really comfy and is right nearby the restaurant and visitors center.

Anyway, our first goal was to drive down the road a little bit and see the General Grant tree.

It’s a short, easy hike to get to it, and there are lots of other huge trees in the area.

The Nation’s Christmas Tree.

We could have gone to see the biggest tree, the General Sherman, but it was such a long drive that we couldn’t fit it in. Instead we cornered this park ranger and got all the information we could about giant sequoias.

He also helped us identify this strange looking plant. It’s called snow plant.

That night we ventured to a lookout point not too far from the lodge and ate blackberry pie with this view.

The next morning, our last day there, we decided to drive down into Kings Canyon. We’d heard the drive itself was as much a part of the experience as getting to the bottom, and that turned out to be true.

We took more photos of the intrepid Yaris on the way.

Eventually we made it to, literally, Roads End, where we went for another hike.

More interesting plants.

You could see these cool domes, where the rock had slid off forming a sheer face.

And at the very end of our trip, while Brigid and I made lunch on “Muir Rock,” our husbands decided to jump into the freezing cold water.

I can’t believe they did it, but it was pretty awesome.

Road trip: Sequoia National Forest (part 1)

First of all, I apologize for the site being down so long. I was just trying to update WordPress, and I ended up crashing the whole site, which took a while to put back together. On the plus side it gave me lots of time to go through all my photos from our recent vacation, so now I can post them!

Our trip was kind of a surprise. Our Minneapolis friends Brigid and Aaron were planning a trip to see the giant sequoias and asked if we’d like to come along. We took about half a second to say yes. Unlike the coastal redwoods, which we’ve already seen, the giant sequoias are some of the widest, and overall largest and oldest trees in the world. Seeing them was sort of a life list thing for us.

We also just wanted to hang out with Brigid and Aaron, who are expecting a baby in a few months. They are just as nerdy as we are when it comes to nature, and they make great traveling companions. They’re the only people I know that are willing to be squished in the back of our overfilled 2-door Yaris for an extended road trip.

I’m dividing my posts about the trip into two parts because I have so many photos. The first part covers the time we spent in a remote cabin in the Sequoia National Forest. Then the second part will be from Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, where we stayed at the John Muir Lodge. It’s kind of confusing, when you’re in the national forest, versus the national park, versus the national monument. Hopefully it will all make sense!

So we started out driving to Fresno, picked up some groceries (since we had to bring all our own food and bedding to the cabin), and then headed east into the mountains. We took a very curvy road up to about 7,000 feet to our Grouse Valley cabin. The best way to describe its location is probably the middle of nowhere, although not quite as remote as Mono Hot Springs was. The one-lane dirt road part was only about 5 miles this time…

We stopped along the road on the way there to admire the view and some flowers. We spotted some monarch caterpillars and these spiky looking plants.

The view up top.

The cabin itself is one of three on the property. We stayed in the caretaker’s cabin, which is code for ‘not as nice as the other ones.’ If we go back I would definitely stay in this one that has its own lake.

But the overall property was just beautiful.

Apparently, you can bring your horses with you on vacation. 

In the distance we could see cows grazing, and after a while they came over to investigate us.

They may have been upset that we were cooking a steak dinner.

This mule deer also came by a couple times.

In addition to horse and cow pastures and pretty lakes, the property also has apple and pear orchards and almond trees.

There was also a big field of yellow flowers right outside the cabin.

The sunset that first night was just gorgeous.

The next day we decided to drive to the top of the mountain for a better view.

It was just blue sky for miles and miles.

We couldn’t help but giggle at one of the peaks that looked like a butt. We dubbed it butt butte.

The next day we drove into the woods a little bit and went for a hike. The trails weren’t marked particularly well, but they also didn’t go particularly far.

We finally got to see some of those big trees.

These pine cones actually came from a sugar pine.

We kept finding all these cool wild flowers everywhere we went. Of course I’ve forgotten the names of most of them.

We found a little lake, and as we peered over the ridge we saw our friends, the cows.

We didn’t think they would be nimble enough to make it up the hill, but eventually they came and joined us.

The only scary part was on our way back, when we saw what we were pretty sure was bear poop.

But we never actually saw a bear. Many, many other animals, but no bears.

Part 2 coming soon!